cleaning water

water inquiryYou just never know where a child’s questions can lead. Recently, I was demonstrating a watercolour technique for the students. When I asked them what they could do when the water became too dirty, they logically said they should pour it down the drain. I thought that would have been the end of that. It wasn’t. Two burning questions arose:  “But where does the water go?” and “How does the water get clean and come back out of the tap?”

I left them with a piece of chart paper for them to record their brainstorming. A few days later, I presented them with a coffee filter, paper towel, rocks, sand, oil, paper confetti, and containers. It didn’t take long for them to experiment. I gave no direction other than to watch and listen. A couple of students made quite the concoction. Water, sand, confetti, oil and rocks all went into a container and they stirred. Then, in went the coffee filter, paper towel and cotton – and they stirred some more. As tempting as it was to step in, I held back.

water experiment

They agreed that some of the water was cleaned with the materials. They were right. I asked them to bring their discovery to our sharing debrief where we could get some ideas from other classmates. At first, they weren’t sure. Everyone agreed that the cotton and paper towel collected some of the “dirt” from the water, but they needed more time to experiment.

Clean materials were put out for a couple of days for further exploration. Much of the same happened. Since the results were the same, I decided it was time to bring the clean materials and the used “dirty” materials to a sharing meeting for the students to take a closer look. We agreed that putting everything into the container of water did not work, so we needed to look more closely at the materials. “O” suggested, “Put the coffee filter in the top of the bottle and pour in the rest of the water.”

water test

A couple of students went back to experiment further, but decided to test some more of their own theories. “H” suggested putting the water in the coffee filter. They soon discovered that wouldn’t work, so they poured the water back into the container.


filtering water

Eventually they tried “O’s” suggestion and the cry of victory attracted everyone over to their station. “It’s working! It’s working!” Everyone was eager to try it. The water filtration area continues to be quite popular and the students are relating their learning to water treatment and our interrelationship with the environment.

a home for worms – part one

rotting foodAt this point in the year, the children have a fairly good understanding of what belongs in the recycling and what belongs in the garbage. It  became clear that with the amount of food scraps ending up in the garbage, we needed to be more environmentally aware with regards to what to do with them. A while back, we had the children put the scraps in a bin and placed a lid on it. I don’t have to tell you what began to happen after a few days. Before the children came in one morning, we put the moldy fruit in a clear ziploc bag and left the bag at the Discovery Centre for the children to investigate. They had some interesting observations:

R:  There’s some dust on there. There’s germy stuff. I could see some rotting apple.

A:  I think the green things are leaves. Or rotten.

Av:  The green thing is squishy.

M:  The green thing was on the orange and the apple is getting rotten.

Mr. P.:  What do you mean when you say “rotten?”

M:  Rotten means you can’t eat it anymore. It’s not good anymore.

Mr. P.:  Is there something else we can do instead of putting them in the garbage?

M:  Put it in the compost. When things get rotten, you put it in the compost bin and the worms eat it and help the plants.

R:  When the worms eat the rotten things they make soil. There’s a special door at the front of the composter.

Mr. P.:  Are there worms in there now?

M:  No, because it’s winter.

N:  Maybe we can make something for the worms to live in.

DSC06428And so began the construction of our composter. We discussed what we might use. The children knew we needed a box or a bin. There are many different sources on the web for making your own vermicomposter. I found some very simple instructions from Shedd Aquarium and projected their picture of the compost bin. The children were encouraged to “read” the picture and decide how to begin to approach this project. They noticed the holes. Some thought they were for the worms to crawl through, others were sure they were to let air in so the worms could breathe. As we “read” the picture, we came up with our own instructions on how to make the composter. I asked the children how we could make the holes. At first they were sure they needed scissors. So they gave that a try, but soon found it wasn’t working. One friend said we needed a screwdriver. Another said, “We need something that has small holes and will turn on here (the bin) and will make holes.” I really wish I had some hand drills so the children could drill their own holes. Unfortunately, I did not and I had to get a little more involved than I would have liked. Nonetheless, the children found this quite intriguing. When I showed them the power drill, a few said, “That’s it!  That’s the screwdriver!”

drilling holes composter

Once our composter was built, we needed to prepare it for the worms.  We used instructions from Cathy’s Crawly Composters to learn how to prepare the bedding. The children tore strips of newsprint, white paper, coffee trays and packing cardboard fibre and added it to the bin. We added soil and spritzed it with water in anticipation of the arrival of the worms. Then we awaited their arrival…

composter bedding